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9th September 2010, 4:51pm  (updated 9th September 2010, 5:02pm)
Cricketing legend, the BBC's number two and England's chief medical officer among those honoured at Lincoln graduation
Sir Ian Botham Cricketing legend Sir Ian Botham, the BBC's deputy director general Mark Byford and England's Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies were just three on the illustrious list of people honoured at the University’s degree ceremonies this week along with more than 3,000 students.

Design boss Alberto Alessi, barrister, TV presenter and human rights campaigner Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, outspoken journalist Yasmin Alibai-Brown, and founder of Innocent Smoothies Richard Reed joined them to pick up honorary doctorates at Lincoln Cathedral.

Will Lewis, acclaimed editor of the Daily Telegraph when the paper broke the MP expenses scandal story, and Dr Vicki Phillips, educationalist and director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, also received honorary doctorates.

All praised the University and some took the opportunity to comment on higher education more generally.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown hit out at government cuts in public funding for higher education, branding them disastrous for the nation.

Speaking ahead of receiving an honorary doctorate of letters, she said: “I am grateful for this honour. Universities are the arteries of Britain - my daughter goes to one next year. To cut and slash those is to drain the lifeblood of a nation.”

Alibhai-Brown said higher education should not be viewed as a luxury for the rich and pledged to speak up for the need for public funding for universities.

“Rich folk can always get through these hard times - it is ordinary people whose futures will be most affected if affordable higher education is seen as one more luxury we can do without. This degree gives me a responsibility to campaign for a proper state funding of our universities.”

In a similar vein, Baroness Kennedy said: "“Because I am very much involved in higher education, I’m very concerned at how much money is going to be sucked out of higher education and going to University will become more costly. To burden people with debt in a period of austerity is very tough and I think many people will be choosing not to go to University if we’re not very careful.”

It was not the first visit to Lincoln for the Labour peer, for she has been involved in a number of major murder trials in front of the high court judge in the city. She added: “I know the University well; it has a very good law school that is doing extremely well in creating a new generation of lawyers.”

Mark Byford was thrilled to be recognised by the University in the city where he spent his formative years. He said: "I'm honoured and really delighted to receive this award. I have very happy memories of my teenage years living in Lincoln.

"Of course the University did not exist then in the 1970's but to be recognised in this way and to receive it in Lincoln of the finest buildings in the world....makes it a very personal and special moment which I will treasure."

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